Meaning in the off hours
September 8 - October 23, 2022
The paintings in Sofia Pashaei’s “Meaning in the off hours” - her first solo exhibition - are imagined scenes depicting ones relationship both with themselves and with an other. They show intimate relationships, friendships where time allows for a person to be the myriad of identities that they are. Relationships that start over a glass of wine at a table and continue days, months, or years later in a bathroom - the relationship and the place, more personal. They are narrative paintings; they show the passage of time and weave a story, not in the movement of the figures but instead in the change in architecture, in time of day, and in the objects that decorate the scene. The figures can sometimes become part of the architecture themselves, a reflection of the awkwardness of trying to fit in.
Pashaei’s paintings take time. They make time, too. The calming, aesthetic certitude to her works does not mean they can be seen easily or quickly. Artistic choices and moments consistently and slowly reveal themselves. The line of a wall becomes the curve of a bowl, so seamless that you may not notice it until after having looked at the work for some time. A dining table becomes a bathtub, and night becomes day. A relationship goes from casual to cherished in one still image. The work is both about, and shows, the passage of time.
The smoothness with which she paints the transitions from a couch to a bathtub, or a windowsill to a table is a reflection of the way a person’s identity can be structured as many dissonant but woven ‘rooms’ at once. You are perhaps one person with family and another with friends. This identity splitting is particularly common amongst children of immigrants, or people from non-Western countries and cultures living in Western places. A person’s home is often a place where you can see most clearly and directly who that person is; it is the place that carries all possible identities at once. Pictures framed on a wall are windows into values.
Pashaei uses motifs and symbols throughout the paintings; a toy-like bird silhouette to represent childhood; and, the most common in this series of paintings, a lemon. The lemon can represent the classic adage, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” - take something bitter and make it sweet. The different ways the lemon is portrayed here means varied things within this context. A halved lemon can be a secret gladly revealed, a lemon sitting at the precipice between tub and table can show the moment a relationship changes; a lemon holding up the heel of a foot or touching the mouth of a figure can represent the support allowed by as well as the inhibition caused by changing form, identity.
In the three smallest paintings in the exhibition, Pashaei created an AR (augmented reality), an animation, that has a lemon and a hand as its primary ‘characters.’ This AR emphasizes the idea of the passage of time that runs through all of her paintings. Each painting may feel like the same place, but the ‘when’ is unclear, and the ‘who,’ the inhabitant, as well. Poetically, she takes us into a world where a place is as much its people as people, a place. She subtly hints at the idea that a home, or more broadly a “homeland,’ or a person’s identity, houses many histories, many time periods, and many relationships.
Sofia Pashaei (1989, Sweden) is a painter, director, animator, and designer. Her work has been exhibited with Ballon Rouge at Art Antwerp 2021, and CAN Art Ibiza 2022, as well as a group exhibition at Fondation Boghossian in Brussels and Rufus Gallery in Gent. As an animation director Pashaei has worked with clients such as The New York Times, Google, MTV, Adult Swim and her animated short films have been internationally screened at animation and film festivals.